Ngaonii and Saniiru, the Two Poor Siblings
By: (A Poumai Folktale) Retold by John Basho Pou
Once upon a time, there lived a girl by the name of Saniiru and a boy, Ngaonii who were brother and sister and born to a rich parents in a village. But unfortunately their parents died and left them behind in a pathetic condition. As they were too young to understand about life and stand on their own feet, their paternal uncle adopted them. But their uncle was cruel, selfish and mad for wealth for which he is well known in the village.
Little Saniiru was an obedient, hardworking, disciplined girl and always at the best service of her paternal uncle family, carrying out all the household chores, no matter what. In spite of the fact, she always yielded only hatred and jealousy of her Aunty in whatever she does. Moreover, her uncle was henpecked and crazed for nothing but wealth. Therefore, one day, he and his wife decided to barter off Saniiru for some kinds in a far off village.
On a fine day, her uncle called Saniiru saying, “Come along with me, my daughter, to visit a distant village, a beautiful village you have never seen before”. On hearing the news, Saniiru was so happy that she got to see a new place and new people. Like never before, she was dressed up with the best clothes available in the house.
Off to a far destination, they set out their long journey, crossing many ranges of mountains, vales and dales until they reached the village. As they reached the village, Uncle begun to shout aloud selling Saniiru, “Is there any one out they’re who wants a girl? Come and buy her. Is there anyone out there who wants a girl?” From the down right to the upper part of the village, he kept shouting along the village footpath, “Is there any one out there who wants a girl? Is there anyone who wants a girl? Come and buy her” at the top of his voice.
As he went down the village shouting, Saniiru walked by his side helplessly, with her eyes full of tears. On hearing the shout, a rich man came out of his house and bargained Saniiru for three cows and one Kisa (white cotton-shawl from Imphal, usually used in exchange of goods in the olden days). Not satisfying the price of her own life, she asked her uncle crying, “Uncle, you may sell me off for your own good, but the price of my life is too less. You need to ask more”. At last, the deal was settled between the rich man and the uncle. And Saniiru was bought for five cows and one Kisa. Saniiru uncle went back home with the price of Saniiru, his adopted daughter.
As the days passed by, Uncle again took the boy, Ngaonii out of the village for sale. He took him to the same village where his sister Saniiru was sold off. As he went along the village footpath from down to up the village, he shouted, “Is there any one who wants a boy? I brought a boy for sale. Is there any one out there?” The same rich man heard him shouting and bought him too for ten cows and one Kisa.
Now, Saniiru and Ngaonii lived together under one roof in a new village. Unfortunately, they couldn’t recognize each other, and didn’t know that they are real brother and sister as they were separated from each other at the tender age. And Saniiru ill-treated Ngaonii by calling him servant, and ordered him to do all the hard works, clean cattle’s excretions, pound food grains, fetch water from the well, and even ordered him to comb her hair and look for head-lice. However, poor Ngaonii would obediently do any works he is ordered to.
On a day, when Ngaonii was combing Saniiru’s hairs and searching for head-lice, he spotted a cut-scar on Saniiru’s head. Taken by surprise, he told Saniiru that she has a scar exactly resembled with his own sister’s, whose head was cut by their rude Aunty with a weaving-stick when they were young.
On learning it, Saniiru asked Ngaonii the names of his parents, village he came from, etc. And innocently, Ngaonii replied that the only and one thing he could remember is, he has lost his beloved parents when he was young and couldn’t remember their face. He went on saying that he also had a loving elder sister by the name of Saniiru who was sold off by their cruel uncle to unknown person. He didn’t know her whereabouts. And he didn’t know whether she is still alive or not. He also said that he forgot the name of his village.
Recalling her past memory, She concluded that the boy, Ngaonii, she used to call servant, ill-treat, was none other than her own younger brother, Ngaonii. She threw her arms around him, cried aloud and apologized him for the things she has done to him. Caressing him and crying, she said, “My boy, I’m your sister, Saniiru sold off by our uncle very long time ago. Now strip off your old cloths and put on these new ones. Stop doing those dirty and heavy works now on. Go out of the house and join other men folks and learn things a man ought to know and do for his life and for a society”.
Now the two siblings were so happy after identifying themselves. She treated her brother, Ngaonii to the best food and drinks available in the household. Whenever their owners were out to the fields and away from home, varieties of delicious food items like piglets, dried beef, fish, and pork were taken out of the paddy barns, and served Ngaonii to restore his poor health and physical build-up.
Very often they would sit down together happily. And Saniiru would narrate to him their family background, story of past reality, their native village, materialistic possession, lands, and properties their forefathers had left for them. She also encouraged him and taught him to fight for their rights and defend land and properties due to them.
On a day later, she dropped him off at the village gate. She slipped defensive weapons into Ngaonii’s hands and blessed him crying, “Be brave, my boy, be always on your guard and confident in everything you do in life. My prayer and blessings will always be with you”.
Biding farewell to each other in tears, Ngaonii set out his journey, back to his native village, the village he has forgotten. However, Saniiru stayed back in the village, prayed to deity and performed all necessary rituals for her brother journey and prosperous life.
Winning over his enemies in the battles, along his way home, with the weapons and blessings he got from his sister, Ngaonii finally reached his native village safe and sound. He has also successfully regained those lost lands and other possessions from the clutch of his uncle and other enemies. He settled in his own native village and live there happily ever after, taking care of the lands handed down by his forefathers.
And the cruel uncle, who sold off Saniiru and Ngaonii, was believed to live a very poor and pathetic life. And he could never become a rich man again.
(This is a story from a Poumai Folktales Collection retold and translated by John Basho Pou, and soon to be released in a Book form)